Networking for Success

It takes more than just handing out business cards. These days, entrepreneurs must use every resource available to develop and maintain

the networking event, be prepared to follow up with the contacts you made in the next few days. “So many sales are lost because people don’t,” says Dominguez. “We get so wrapped up in the excitement of the moment that we don’t realize it is only a moment. Follow-up is just one additional element or tool that’s going to [help you reach] the goals you want to reach,” he says. You can follow up in a variety of ways: a phone call; fax; hand-written note; or hand-signed, typed letter. Roner sends an e-mail or leaves a telephone message.

Lastly, using networking to build relationships that lead to new business takes time, so be patient. “Entrepreneurs often have an instant gratification mentality; they think that a referral should happen right away. But networking is not something you just jump into and expect it to provide the kind of business you hear about so many people getting,” Dominguez says. “You’ve got to work it and that takes time. But you also have to never, never, never give up because it will work for you.”

10 Steps to Successful Networking

  1. Network in places and at events that would attract your target audience. Don’t choose venues and occasions where just your good friends hang out. Your friends may not have anything to do with furthering your business goals.
  2. Sharpen your networking skills before attending an event. Have a few topics in mind to use as icebreakers. Ask open-ended questions to keep conversation flowing.
  3. Set specific goals and stick to them. If your objective is to meet three new people at a local chat-and-chew, make it a point to do that before you leave.
    Dominguez suggests that you never spend more than 10 minutes with one person when you’re networking. If you find yourself spending more time than that, politely introduce that person to someone else, then move on.
  4. Describe your business in 60 seconds or less. No one wants to hear you ramble about every aspect of your company. Create a concise and interesting way to let others know what you do.
  5. Be willing to listen. Business owners often make the mistake of talking too much when attending a networking event. Ask questions of the person you’re talking to and give your undivided attention. Don’t glance down at your watch too often or let your eyes wander over their shoulder.
  6. Relax. When networking, don’t whip out your business card seconds after you shake the person’s hand. Create interesting dialogue first. That will begin the relationship-building process.
  7. Take notes. Whether you attend a conference, organization meeting, or chamber event, gather information about potential clients and write it on the backs of their business cards. This will help you recall your conversations when it’s time to follow up.
  8. Look for people to refer. Sometimes the fastest way to get referrals is to give referrals, so pull your entrepreneurial peers into your discussions.
  9. Follow up. After the event, don’t throw all of the business cards you collected into a drawer. Follow up with a phone call, fax, letter,
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